Loss of Me

Need to lose weight in a hurry? Diets can take time. Here are eight overlooked methods for instantly shedding mass:

  1. Remove lint from bellybutton.
  2. Clip fingernails and toenails.
  3. Exfoliate.
  4. Excrete.
  5. Blow nose.
  6. Shave head and body hair.
  7. Donate blood.
  8. Spit.

Consent to Conceive

The average age of marriage for women in Kuwait is 15.4. This statistic causes discomfort for many people because the average age of marriage for women in the developed world is double that of Kuwait.

When we imagine a 15-year-old girl getting married, we almost certainly picture a helpless girl, robbed of her innocence and independence by rape or through coercion into an unwanted relationship. We can’t help but revile such practices, since girls of that age in the developed world are still considered children, concerning themselves with homework and kittens, not raising a family. But is there really a objective standard for the age of marriage or, more specifically, childbearing? And if so, what is that age and how is it determined? There are several ways to approach this topic; let’s begin with an ethical perspective.

Withholding rights and freedoms based on age is discrimination, making children the most ostracized members of society. Children can’t marry, can’t vote, can’t drive, can’t work and they can’t destroy their bodies with dangerous substances such as alcohol and tobacco. They are also segregated into their own education and prison facilities and are regularly refused access to certain carnival rides. All of this is just fine, of course, because we know that children are foolish and irresponsible, which is why we keep knives out of reach of them. All youth are underprivileged, but that is something that we know and accept, so there isn’t really a moral argument for children having the right to give birth or marry in this cultural climate. Let’s move on to the emotional aspect of this issue.

From our culture’s perspective, children not only make poor choices, they are also emotionally unstable. By restricting their freedom, we are protecting them from the consequences of their own irrational behavior. Determining the age at which they are emotionally prepared to make such decisions is somewhat arbitrary and probably has less to do with the number of days spent they’ve spent on Earth than what they learn from culture and school. In America, young girls are taught math, science and history, not how to feed and care for babies. At some point, however, children do become emotionally stable enough to make life-changing decisions, and it’s quite possible that happens at age 15.4 in Kuwait. After all, we expect teens to factor polynomials, which is far more complicated than child-rearing. Now we see that there is no absolute moral law or measurable stage of emotional development dictating an appropriate age for bearing children. Perhaps our friend, biology, can shed some light on this shady issue.

Puberty is a stage of physical development which occurs between the ages of 12 and 16 in boys and between age 10 and 14 in girls. During this period, the body undergoes drastic morphological transformation, and life sucks. The eventual result of this process is a hairy, sweaty human body with a fully-functional reproductive system. Girls are biologically prepared to bear children by age 15, which is more than 10 years younger the average age of a woman giving birth to her first child in the United States. This means that by the time the average American woman gives birth to her first child, her reproductive system has been idle for a decade. Talk about rotten eggs.

All other mating creatures on the planet will attempt to procreate as soon as they are able, so is it really absurd to ask a sexually mature female to bear a child? Comparatively speaking, it certainly is not. Humans have seized control of their reproductive destiny from mother nature and redefined the appropriate age for parenting. We now stress the importance of independence, financial and educational success over responsibility and family. The result is young people who are able and willing to engage in sexual relations, but are not expected to accept the outcome of such activity. We teach them how to plant seeds, but not how to grow crops.

What’s even stranger about our reproductive behavior is that the average age of puberty for girls has been decreasing, which means that we are bearing children later in life while our bodies are preparing for childbirth sooner. In fact, there’s a well-documented story from the 1930s of a Peruvian girl who became pregnant at the age of 5. This case, along with modern Kuwaiti practice, offend our sensibilities because they undermine our culture’s notions of sexuality. But if our bodies are prepared for procreation, then is it not a mistake to avoid emotional preparation for such practices?

Perhaps our discomfort with 15-year-old mothers reflects a simple difference in culture, or a maybe it reveals our failure to prepare young people for adulthood, a natural and necessary ingredient for existence. Either way, we shouldn’t judge Kuwaitis, since their behavior more accurately corresponds to the stages of biological development, which is the only concrete, natural way to determine the proper age of consent to conceive.

But perhaps there is a way to take into account the physical, mental and emotional maturity of individuals. Rather than simply waiting until a specific number of days has passed since the child was born, we could wait until children reach puberty, then allow or require them to pass an examination before they can accept the responsibilities of adulthood. This way we ensure that they are in every way prepared for adult life. This may seem silly, but isn’t it far more ridiculous to think that a child becomes an adult overnight, and that every child experiences this transformation at the exact same time?

We don’t just assume that children can operate motor vehicles once they turn 16, yet we accept that they can vote, get married, own property, join the army and make other serious life-altering decisions based solely on their age. Also, if maturity becomes something that must be proven, then such a system could also be used to provide more consistent and concrete determinations in cases where sanity or cognition are called into question. This would be helpful, for just as we limit the responsibilities of children, we also do so with criminals, seniors and the mentally ill.

Don’t judge people based on the number of days they’ve been alive.

Official Opposition

Despite how insightful the idea may seem, the opposite of love is not indifference. The opposite of something isn’t nothing, it’s something that is opposed or contrary to it. If the opposite of love is indifference, then the opposite of every emotion must also be indifference. Though cold is technically the absence of heat, the opposite of a high temperature is a low temperature, not a mild temperature. So what are opposites, exactly, and how do we determine their identity?

Although we all understand what an opposite is, defining it is a little tricky. For example, everyone knows that the opposite of evil is good and that good triumphs over evil, but how do we define good in relation to evil? Good is not merely the absence of evil, neither is it something totally dissimilar; it is the inverse, the nemesis or, expressed mathematically, evil*-1.

There are actually two distinct variations of opposites: polar opposites and binary opposites. Examples of polar opposition would include an inch and a mile or constipation and diarrhea, because they reside at different ends of a spectrum. Polar opposites are simply the inverse of each other and usually aren’t very difficult to discern.

Binary opposites, however, are not commonly identified as part of a spectrum, but are defined in relation to a counterpart. Men and women, for example, are opposites not because they are contrary or inverted, though in some ways they are, but because they make up the gender binary. Using this interpretation, the opposite of night would be day and the opposite of a hand would be a foot.

Sometimes a subject may have more than one binary opposite. Although this seems nonsensical, we must remember that most things can be categorized in different ways. For example, a man is not merely defined as one of two sexes, but as a human, an intelligent being, a creature, a collection of organic matter, an imperfect being, a creator, a destroyer and an explorer. So depending on the context, the opposite of a man could be an animal, an inanimate object, an angel, demon, god or ghost, a force of good or a force of evil. Likewise, the opposite of a chicken could be an egg, but the opposite of a chicken stir fry would probably be a beef stir fry.

Now what happens when we add attributes to the subject? A tall man is an example of something that has both a polar and binary opposite.

Tall Man
Tall Woman
Short Man
Short Woman

Here we see the different potential opposites of a tall man. The opposite of the subject, man, is woman, and the opposite of the attribute, tall, is short. So how do we determine the opposite of a tall man, since it’s comprised of two components?

There are three dominant theories which dictate how we derive the opposite in a case such as this. The first is opposite subject theory, which states that we should find the inverse of the subject, resulting in tall woman. The second is known as opposite attribute theory, and it requires us to invert only the attributes, which produces short man. The third theory is called complete opposite theory, and it states that we must find the opposite of both the subject and the attribute(s), giving us short woman.

One idea that has fallen out of favor in recent years is opposite attraction theory, which uses the laws of attraction to deduce opposites. This theory is very fun and works great in the realms of romance, positive thinking and electromagnetism, but it doesn’t help much in our case. Each of our three dominant theories has its own strengths and non-strengths, which we will be revealed through examination our next example: a baby boy playing. Let’s see how each of our theories decodes the opposite in this scenario.

Baby Boy Playing
Baby Boy Working
Baby Girl Playing
Baby Girl Working
Adult Boy Playing
Adult Boy Working
Adult Girl Playing
Adult Girl Working

Opposite subject theory would have us invert the subject, boy, resulting in baby girl playing. This theory works very well when dealing with subjects with obvious polar or binary opposites, but what about something that doesn’t have a clear opposite, like a paperclip, cloud or dishwasher?

The second option simply asks us to invert all of the described attributes, leaving only the subject unchanged, which gives us adult boy working. For a long time this theory worked fine and the land was green and good, until the crystal cracked.

A fringe theory broke off from opposite attribute theory, and it asked us to find the primary attribute of the subject and invert only that attribute. In this case, the primary attribute would be baby, since it most intrinsically and decisively defines the subject, boy, so we would get adult boy playing.

The difficulty with primary attribute theory is discerning which attribute is primary and whether or not it’s actually part of the subject. Some might argue that the primary attribute in this case is boy and that the subject is actually baby, but the term baby is more commonly used as an adjective to describe things like baby food, baby clothes, baby steps and baby baboons.

However, a big blue fish has two seemingly equal defining attributes. This means that there is either no correct opposite or a number of equally correct opposites, which may cause one to question the existence of moral absolutes.

The third option, complete opposite theory, would have us invert both the attributes, baby and playing, as well as the subject, boy, which produces adult girl working. Although this answer is very convincing, it gives us a result that is totally dissimilar to the original. This method is surely logical, but it breaks down when we apply it to certain well-known opposites.

We all know the opposite of walking forward is walking backward, not running or crawling backward. We also know that the opposite of a human getting older is a human getting younger, not a non-human getting younger. This is because opposites must share a point of reference, which is usually the subject. If they don’t, then we end up with two things that are totally different, which is not what opposites are about. This method also suffers from the same problem as opposite subject theory, since both require the subject to be inverted.

Now let’s take a look at both of the types of opposites as well as each of the theories we explored. In order to help us understand opposites more clearly, let’s use mathematic expressions for both polar and binary opposites with each of the theories applied.

Expression Polar Opposite
Subject Attribute(s) Primary Attribute Complete
x -x Not Applicable Not Applicable -x
x+1 -x+1 x-1 x-1 -x-1
5x-5 5(-x)-5 -5x+5 -5x-5 -5(-x)+5
1(-x+1)^-1 1(x+1)^-1 -1(-x-1)^1 1(-x+1)^1 -1(x-1)^1
Expression Binary Opposite
Subject Attribute(s) Primary Attribute Complete
x y Not Applicable Not Applicable y
x+1 y+1 x+0 x+0 y+0
5x-5 5y-5 5x-5 5x-5 5y-5
1(-x+1)^-1 1(-y+1)^-1 0(-x+0)^0 1(-x+1)^0 0(-y+0)^0

As we can see, we get very different answers depending on how we go about getting our opposites. And even when we use numbers, opposites are not easily determined. Although in these examples we can simply use the order of operations to determine the primary attribute, we still run into difficulty with multiple operations of the same order.

It’s easy to see that the polar opposite of x is -x, and the binary opposite is y. Likewise, the polar opposite of 1 is obviously -1, and the binary opposite is even more obviously 0. However, while the polar opposite of 5 is clearly -5, there is no binary opposite to such a number. Just like dishwashers and many other real-world examples, most numbers don’t have binary opposites, which means we must use the polar opposite, since the alternative could mean inverting nothing at all. Now we see that no opposite type or theory is fully adequate, since they all have exceptions.

So how do we know when to use polar opposites and when to use binary opposites? Determining the opposite of an attribute is relatively simple, since adjectives usually fall on a spectrum. For subjects, however, one tactic we can use is to test for an obvious binary opposite before exploring polar opposites. Since not all subjects have a binary opposite, it would make sense to first test to see if it has a well-known counterpart.

Now which theory is most versatile and consistently produces meaningful opposites? Opposite subject theory can force us to conjure up ridiculous nonexistent beings or mechanisms to find an opposite, and opposite attribute theory can produce results that are too dissimilar to be recognized as an opposite. Complete opposite theory, while perhaps the most logical, suffers from both of these complications. Opposite primary attribute theory, on the other hand, allows us to avoid silly subject opposites and also yields recognizable and meaningful opposites.

So how do we resolve subjects that have multiple attributes but no primary attribute? In other words, what if our adjectives aren’t cumulative? Well, just as a subject may have more than one opposite, there can also be more than one opposite when there is no primary attribute. If both attributes are equally describe the subject, a wise strategy would be to choose the one that is most easily inverted. This would turn our big blue fish into a small blue fish, since it’s much simpler to determine the opposite of big than blue. If one attribute is not easier to invert than another, then it may be acceptable to invert both or all of the attributes.

But sometimes one of the attributes, though just as significant or even more significant than the others, just doesn’t make sense when inverted alone. So if we had to find the opposite of a generous friend giving money, it wouldn’t be a selfish friend lending money. A generous friend taking money doesn’t make much sense either. It would be best to invert both generous and giving, making this person a selfish friend taking money, which makes a lot more sense.

Some people have difficulty just identifying attributes of a subject, let alone determining which one to invert. This is because attributes are not equal to adjectives. Attributes are features or characteristics of the subject. In the example above, a generous friend giving money, generous is obviously one of the attributes of friend, but what about giving money? The term giving is not an attribute on its own, and neither is money, for if we separate them, then there are two subjects: friend and money. No, in this case giving money is the second attribute of friend, because we all know that the opposite of giving money is taking money, not taking non-money. In a way, each attribute is treated as its own separate opposite before being tested against any other attributes and then applied to the original subject.

The only other obstacle that runs this theory ashore is a subject with no describing attributes. In these cases, we can defer to opposite subject theory, since that is the only remaining solution. Now let’s see how it works.

Original Opposite(s) Explanation
A Chicken An Egg No attributes, invert subject. Chicken and egg are binary opposites.
Sea Land Sky No attributes, invert subject. Sea, land and sky are binary opposites.
A Giant Chicken A Tiny Chicken Giant and tiny are polar opposites.
A Skilled Carpenter A Clumsy Carpenter Skilled and clumsy are polar opposites.
An Emotional Romance Movie A Dull Romance Movie Cumulative adjectives. Emotional is easier to invert than romance.
A Beautiful, New House An Ugly, New House A Beautiful, Old House An Ugly, Old House Coordinate (independent) adjectives. No primary attribute.
A Shy Girl on a Blind Date An Outgoing Girl on a Blind Date Shy is the primary attribute. Shy is easier to invert than on a blind date.
A Horrible Disease That Kills Quickly A Horrible Disease That Kills Slowly Horrible is the primary attribute, but inverting it doesn’t make sense.
A Strong, Handsome Hero A Weak, Hideous Hero A Strong, Hideous Hero A Weak, Hideous Hero Coordinate (independent) adjectives. No primary attribute.
An Honest Lawyer Telling the Truth A Dishonest Lawyer Telling Lies Honest is the primary attribute, but inverting it alone doesn’t make sense.

As we can see, the answer largely depends on context. It seems strange that the opposite of a chicken is an egg while the opposite of a giant chicken isn’t a giant egg. However, if our attribute was friendly, rather than giant, then it would seem silly to invert the subject, since eggs are hardly friendly at all.

Likewise, it would appear to many that the opposite of a strong, handsome hero must be a villain, since they could be considered both polar and binary opposites. But again, inverting the subject is only tempting in these situations because there is an obvious opposite to the subject. If it was a Russian farmer who was strong and handsome, then we would be much less inclined to find the subject’s opposite. As a final example of opposites, let’s consider the case of one of the most popular comic book heroes of all time: Superman.

Superman has faced many foes over the years, including cyborgs, monkeys, millionaires, thieves, ghosts, gods, demons, environmentalists, Kryptonians, scientists, magicians, aliens and many others. Although Superman has handled a wide variety of villains, some of them are more memorable than others. This is because a good villain is the antithesis of the hero, standing against what the hero stands for and embodying virtues that oppose those of the hero. Most heroes have an archenemy or nemesis, which is usually a being who is their perfect opposite.

Although many would identify Lex Luthor as Superman’s nemesis, there have been several attempts to create an evil counterpart to the Man of Steel. Ultra-Humanite, Lex Luthor, Ultraman and Bizarro were all made with the intent of producing a villain who is completely contrary to Superman, but did any of them really succeed?

These four foes basically fall into two categories: the ones with superpowers and the ones without. Ultraman and Bizarro have similar or identical physical powers to those of Superman, such as flight and super-strength, while Ultra-Humanite and Lex Luthor have only increased intellectual abilities. Ultra-Humanite even possesses a crippled body, which was meant to make him a more complete opposite of Superman.

Also, in Kill Bill: Vol. 2, David Carradine’s character argues that the antithesis of Superman is actually Clark Kent – a cowardly, benign human with no interest in helping or hurting others. So which one of these characters is the true opposite of Superman? Let’s take a look at each of them and see whether they are using polar or binary opposites and which opposite theories are being applied.

Character Features
Strength Intelligence Super Powers Personality
Superman Super Normal Flight, Heat Vision, Freeze Breath, etc. Selfless, Humble, Honest
Ultra-Humanite Limited Super None Selfish, Insane, Hateful
Lex Luthor Normal Super None Selfish, Ambitious, Deceitful
Ultraman Super Normal Flight, Heat Vision, Freeze Breath, etc. Selfish, Ambitious, Deceitful
Bizarro Super Limited Flight, Freeze Vision, Flame Breath, etc. Confused
Clark Kent Normal Normal None Disengaged, Timid, Fearful

As we can see, each villain has its own approach to opposing Superman’s features. Ultra-Humanite and Lex Luthor mirror Superman’s incredible physical abilities with intellectual abilities, since they are binary opposites, with Ultra-Humanite’s inferior physical strength representing a polar opposite. In the same way, Bizarro’s limited intelligence is an attempt to mirror Superman’s normal intelligence, though also serving to separate him from other villains. Instead of contrasting Superman’s physical abilities, Ultraman and Bizarro share Superman’s powers, but some of Bizarro’s abilities are actually inverted from those of Superman.

As far as personality and behavior goes, Bizarro again separates himself from the pack with a lack of obvious maniacal intent. Superman is good, and the opposite of good is evil, so it would make sense to have an evil nemesis. But Bizarro, like the other villains, is a combination of opposite types and theories, so it’s likely that his creators were merely attempting to make a character who was extremely dissimilar to Superman in all respects. Unfortunately this doesn’t explain why Bizarro flies instead of digging and why he isn’t physically weak like other villains.

Clark Kent, on the other hand, embodies not the opposite of Superman’s features, but the absence of them. And, as we already discussed earlier, the opposite of something is not nothing. If Clark Kent was the opposite of Superman, then he would also be the opposite of Lex Luthor, Bizzaro and any other extraordinary character.

Of all of Superman’s Enemies, Bizarro is the most obvious attempt to create a complete opposite. Bizarro’s creators even went to so far as to give him the ability to see a short distance behind his head, which is supposed to be the opposite of Superman’s ability to see a great distance in front of him. Although they obviously went to great length to ensure that Bizarro was the complete opposite of Superman, they ultimately failed. This is because there can be no true complete opposite of something with as many characteristics as a person, especially when we know so much about them.

Superman is not just a Superhero with superpowers, he’s an alien, an idealist, a person of moderate height and intelligence, he’s brave, friendly, helpful and good-looking, he has short, dark hair, he’s not an amputee or a football player, he never gets sick, he can see, smell, taste, touch and hear, he’s emotionally stable, he sleeps in a bed and so on.

This is why complete opposite theory and opposite attribute theory can’t work: there are too many characteristics to invert. As we already discussed, the best way to find the opposite of something is to invert its primary attribute or attributes, so we need to ask ourselves what are the most defining features?

Well, since Superman is the only Kryptonian on Earth, that would be a good place to start. He also possesses incredible physical powers that other people do not, and he’s a hero who has dedicated himself to defending Earth and its inhabitants from evil. What’s the opposite of a physically powerful alien selflessly protecting others? Probably an intellectually powerful human selfishly exploiting others.

Old Cars

People are like cars – when we get old we start to break down. Here are ten ways that our aging bodies resemble old cars:

  1. They require increased maintenance and replacement parts.
  2. Their speed and carrying capacity is diminished.
  3. The valves and seals begin to leak.
  4. Some of their parts no longer function.
  5. The exterior is dull and dated.
  6. Businesses replace them with the newer generation.
  7. They are not compatible with modern electronic devices.
  8. They emit strange noises and odors.
  9. They won’t attract any potential mates.
  10. Their last years are spent decaying near others of their kind.

Animal Value

When the last whale washes up on shore,
When the last elephant is poached for its tusks,
When the last eagle flies over the last crumbling mountain,
We will mourn.

But who will mourn the snail, the spider, the mouse?
The mole, the gnat, the tick, the grouse?
The fly on our windshield, the ant beneath our feet?
Or the swarms of rodents infesting our streets?

People hold many different views on the role and value of animals in our society, but one thing that they all agree on, whether they would admit it or not, is that some animals are more valuable than others.

Every species has a value, and that value is based its intelligence, size and majesty. We will now look at each of these features in order to better understand how to rank an animal’s value. Let’s start with the least important feature, intelligence.

When animals show intelligence, we see something of ourselves in them, and a kinship is created. When we watch a raven solve a puzzle, a dolphin swim along side a vessel or a dog wag its tail with glee, we can’t help but project our emotions onto those creatures and treat them as a fellow member of the elite league of intelligent creatures. Conversely, when we watch an animal do something stupid, like when a bird flies in front of a car, a fish jumps out of its aquarium or an insect flies into our mouth, we can’t help but feel estranged from such creatures. We just can’t imagine what, if anything, they were thinking, and so we treat them with disdain.

Because humans are both the most important and the most intelligent animal, we might think that intelligence is the most important feature, but there are many animals that show high intelligence that are not valued very highly, most notably pigeons and rats.

The second most important feature is size. When an animal is small, we tend not to care about it. When was the last time we shed a tear for a bee or a louse? It can’t be a coincidence that all of the creatures adored by animal activists are relatively large. As an example, if we were to rank the importance of a rabbit, a snail, a cow, a whale and a salamander, the result would be as follows:

  1. Whale
  2. Cow
  3. Rabbit
  4. Salamanter
  5. Snail

The reason why size is important is not exactly clear. Part of the reason could be that we cannot relate to tiny creatures because we cannot easily see them, which makes it difficult to understand them and observe their complexities. Another reason could be that smaller animals tend to exist in large numbers, which makes them seem expendable. It could also be that small creatures do not have much, if any, blood, so their deaths are not gruesome and traumatic. Size matters, but sometimes small animals can have big value, as is the case with seahorses, hummingbirds and most infant animals.

The final and most important feature in animal value is majesty. Majesty is why we prefer parrots over possums and bears over barracuda. The majesty of an animal has many facets, including age, adorability, ferocity, beauty, rarity, strength, fragility and peculiarity, but it is hard to define concretely. There are, however, some general guidelines that majestic animals tend to follow. Here are a few of them:

  • Don’t carry diseases.
  • Don’t sting or bite humans.
  • Don’t have small, soulless eyes.
  • Don’t be belligerent and numerous.
  • Don’t eat human food.
  • Don’t suck blood.
  • Don’t screech or buzz.
  • Don’t have more than four legs.
  • Don’t crawl or slither.
  • Don’t secrete anything.

Majestic animals don’t do these things; they soar, roar, gallop, glide, splash and sing. Animals that don’t follow these guidelines are subject to hatred and revulsion. One creature that is currently experiencing the negative effects of having a low animal value is the mosquito.

Bill Gates, a well-known wealthy person, has declared war on the mosquito because it spreads malaria, a disease that is responsible for hundreds of thousands of human deaths every year. Gates is bent on the eradication of these helpless insects, which are not defended by animal rights groups simply because they have little value.

So be careful, little creatures, what you do.

Terminal Velocity

In the year 2000 there were over six million motor vehicle accidents in the United States, resulting in 41,945 human fatalities. In that same year an estimated 247,000 deer were maimed or killed in motor vehicle collisions, and it’s likely that other species, such as birds, suffered even greater losses. Driving is undeniably dangerous.

Many of these accidents were likely caused by intoxication or carelessness, but piloting a 1,000 kg metal box at speeds exceeding 100 km/h is inherently hazardous. In an effort to mitigate the number of vehicle collisions, some groups are lobbying for reduced speed limits, especially in residential and high-traffic areas. Their premise that slower vehicles will produce fewer collisions couldn’t be less inaccurate.

It’s obvious to most that slower vehicles are safer, since the force of impact is diminished and the window for driver reaction is expanded. Objects with no velocity are the easiest to avoid since they rarely crash into things. Unfortunately, getting motorists to slow down is not as simple as a mere adjustment in signage.

A report by the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center concluded that neither lowering nor raising speed limits by up to 24 km/h had a significant effect on motorist speed. The report’s conclusion states, “…motorists do not alter their speed to conform to speed limits they perceive as unreasonable for prevailing conditions.” But even if drivers did obey the new speed limits, a more challenging question must be answered: how many lives are we willing to sacrifice?

Most groups advocating lower speed limits are requesting that they be reduced by 10 or 20 km/h, but slower vehicles would still produce some collisions, injuries and deaths. So how many fatalities are we willing to accept as a natural consequence? This is a very difficult question to answer, and it applies to many areas beyond that of motor vehicles.

In every industry there are deaths, injuries or accidents of some kind. Rules are created, precautions are taken and laws are passed to reduce these incidents, but they aren’t really aimed at reducing the number of incidents to zero. This is because safety is inversely proportional to efficiency.

Imposing health and safety practices on an industry will inevitably make it less efficient. Conversely, an industry operating without any concern for safety would likely be very efficient, that is, until its workforce is deceased or debilitated.

Some concerned individuals feel a moral obligation to avoid purchasing products from companies that exploit people, animals or the environment, but again, how much is too much? Let’s look at some examples of absolute positions often taken on subjects that are not absolute.

Many people hold a negative view of oil companies because of the environmental damage they inflict, so they ride a bicycle or take public transit. But almost all the products they buy are transported by fuel-burning freight and constructed with oil-based synthetic materials.

Some individuals choose not to eat meat so that animals might be spared unnatural suffering and an early death, but many animals are killed by farming machinery during the harvest of crops and even more are displaced by agricultural properties. And, of course, they are not concerned with the number of insects that are crushed beneath their feet every day, since bugs do not hold a high animal value.

The idea that moral issues are not as dry and cut as we might like can make us feel overwhelmed and impotent. When we realize that no person, organization or action is purely good or evil, we can succumb to what is known as the grey escape – an apathetic exit to a moral predicament. The grey escape is the perception that when an issue is complex or its answer is not easily reached, the solution must be either nonexistent or unworthy of investigation. People who subscribe to this line of thinking are often too concerned with entertainment, success and pleasure to bother the moral and abstract. “Because the matter is grey,” they say, “it deserves not the time of day.”

Grey things are the most important.